Skip to comments.Bye-bye baby (Childfree and Loving It)
Posted on 02/28/2006 1:23:15 AM PST by beaversmom
Fascinating research suggests that as many as one in five thirtysomething British women is planning a child-free future.
When Jemma North was eight years old she had an epiphany. 'At school, someone's mum was pregnant. All the other little girls were really excited, but all I could think was, "You go through all that and all you have at the end of it is a baby?" I decided then that I would never have children.'
Of course, Jemma's pronouncement was dismissed, much as if she'd announced a plan to be a circus clown. But today, aged 32, married and surrounded by peers who are starting families, she is as adamant about her choice as ever. Yet everyone from family to complete strangers is constantly telling her: 'You'll change your mind.' If they do take her seriously, they warn her: 'You'll regret it.' It infuriates her.
'I don't want children, my husband doesn't want them and we're happy as we are,' she insists. 'The only thing that makes me unhappy is people questioning my decision all the time.'
In our society few objects attract greater pity than the childless woman. She is, we assume, old, unfulfilled, shallow, emotionally damaged, out of touch with the greatest truths of the universe. Almost daily, headlines warn about thirtysomething career women risking heartbreak by delaying pregnancy. Couples spend thousands of pounds to endure the physical and mental ordeal of IVF.
Yet for Jemma, who works for an engineering firm in Northampton, such a vision had no power to frighten. 'I am more put off by the image of being a mother,' she tells me. 'I'm not saying mothers are stupid, because, of course, a lot are far more intelligent than me, but that was my early impression. It seemed to be the thing you did if you had no other ambition.'
Jemma is far from alone. According to the Office of National Statistics, one in five British women in their thirties has decided not to have children. And it may be that a number of these have had less choice in the matter than they thought. Geneticists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge have demonstrated in mice that mutations on a certain gene can cause mothers to neglect their offspring. The same gene also exists in humans.
But whatever the social or genetic forces that play upon us, becoming a mother is still seen as a defining moment. Magazines are full of celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow gushing about how her Oscar means nothing compared to the delights of changing Apple's nappy. In contrast, rare are the voices of women such as the actress Helen Mirren, who has admitted: 'I didn't have that desire to be a mother and I don't think a lot of women do. A lot are pressured into it and they're miserable.' And whenever such comments are voiced, they are usually drowned out by a clamour of disapproval and disbelief.
'Oh, I am fed up of having to justify myself on this subject!' explodes Nicki Defago, a 39-year-old married and childfree (to use her preferred jargon) broadcast journalist. She is the author of Childfree and Loving It!, a book written after she discovered Amazon offered more than 1,000 tomes about what children eat but none about the advantages of childlessness.
'When you say you don't want children, you get the same reaction you'd have got 20 years ago if you said you were gay,' Nicki continues. 'I imagine it's a bit like you must feel if you don't go to church in America. A big section of society is appalled at the notion that there are ladies who don't want to have a baby, and quite a lot of people aren't judgemental but still just can't get it.'
Until I started researching this article, I confess, I fell firmly in the latter camp. Aware of the devastation children would wreak on my carefree life, I nonetheless always hoped to have them. So fundamental was this desire that I was sceptical of women who claimed they didn't want children. As far as I was concerned, they were just trying to put a brave face on the fact that they were unable to conceive, or had never found the right man, or had been bludgeoned by their partner into agreeing not to have them.
Nicki doesn't see it that way. 'You get a far better reception if you tell people you tried and couldn't have children, than if you tell them you don't want them,' she corrects me. But why are people who, for example, are supportive of gay rights, unable to get their heads round the idea that not everyone wants to breed?
Nicki thinks it is because the issue of children 'goes so deeply. A high percentage of us now think there's no God and if you add to that there's no need to reproduce then what on earth is it all for? Choosing not to have children gets to the heart of all those big issues.'
Existential questions apart, much of the debate seems to be fuelled by a baser jealousy. However much they love their children, most parents still yearn for aspects of their old lives.
To see a childless friend enjoying the orderliness, extra cash and spontaneity they have lost, with no apparent sense of 'missing out', can be horribly undermining. Recently the 53-year-old model Marie Helvin explained that her youthful looks were down to a life of no children and, therefore, no stress - a comment that sent a visceral pang through every mother slathering Touche Eclat on her eyebags.
'I know one father of small children who's always saying things like, "Ooh, it's not fair, you are going on holiday next week, we have to go in the school holidays,"' says Jemma North. 'He doesn't seem to appreciate that it's not a question of fairness, that I made a decision to live like this.'
For Regan Forrest, 30, a museums exhibit organiser from Leicester, the downside of children starts with conception. 'I'm uncomfortable with the physical changes of pregnancy and labour,' she admits. 'In my twenties I had body image issues. I've learnt to put up with that but the idea of putting your body through an unknown process is completely terrifying. The turning-point came at a work dinner when a colleague started going on about how his wife had disembowelled herself during labour,' she recalls.
'My partner's a doctor and the obstetric part of his training completely repulsed him. I'd never want him to be repulsed by me.'Equally daunting was the prospect of combining her career with childcare. 'I like to give my career 100 per cent. I don't think I could do the at-home mum thing.'
To parents, such misgivings may seem narcissistic and defeatist. But, Regan retorts, 'I'm demonstrating a degree of self-awareness. I may be selfish but at least I'm not going to let my selfishness affect another person. Anyway, what could be more selfish than propagating your genes? People say that on a biological level that is what we are here to do, but as a species we have transcended our biology. We don't live in caves any more and we don't need to breed.'
Like all women I spoke to, Regan is unconvinced by the arguments in favour of parenthood - the almost transcendent love you feel for children, the joy of watching them develop. 'Maybe women like us are mentally deficient,' says Regan. 'But we're so lucky to be born at this point in history. In the past, I'm sure, women felt like us, but they didn't have a choice.'
The polarity between the two camps could not be sharper. When I told friends who are mothers, or hope to be, about this article, they repeatedly said that - while intellectually respecting the position of the childless - emotionally they found it completely alien. Similarly, child-free women are politely disbelieving when they listen to friends describe a yearning for babies that is almost like a physical ache.
'I'd love to be sympathetic when I hear about women breaking their hearts trying to get IVF, but I can't. It's the opposite of what I feel,' says Anne-Marie Greenslade, 28, a mental-health worker from Warrington, Cheshire. 'I must look so callous when they're telling me, but I can't help it. I simply can't imagine being in their position.'
And there are compelling statistics to back up Anne-Marie's decision. Surveys show that people who choose not to have children (as opposed to those who desperately want them, but can't) tend to have better marriages, better finances and are no more likely to be unhappy in old age than parents.
Alison Townley, 55, a civil servant from Glasgow, toyed with the idea of becoming a mother in her twenties because it was what society expected of her, but felt unable to take the plunge. Today she has no regrets. 'The anguish I was warned about simply isn't there, which surprised me but in a wonderful way. My husband and I revel in our freedom and we resent implications that our life somehow has no purpose. When people have children they seem to give up on their own aspirations and pass the buck on to the next generation. I love the idea that I can still achieve my potential, rather than foisting all my hopes on some other sap.'
Then a toddler, a child, a teen, an adult, a posterity.
They'll under-breed themselves out of existence.
Meanwhile, the ever more extremist Muslims of Britain have five (slightly exaggerated) kids each.
For just one generation. At max.
After that, they are all dead!
Posterity comes when the son sticks you in a nursing home, because the new honey doesn't want you around.
The good news is self-absorbed, high-maintenance women will not reproduce more offspring like themselves.
Being a academic educated man and living in good ole Europe I am quite familiar with women who refuse to multiply. The proportion of childless academic women is around 40% here in Germany. During the time I attended univercity nearly all my girlfriends (I had a few) told me that they only want to become pregnant if it will be compatible with their career. Since being pregnant and having kids is never compatible with careers, quite a lot of them never will have a own family.
Another effect of this standpoint is, that others of them are desperately trying to get pregnant when their time to be fertile is simply over after they reconsidered the whole thing. Not all couples are able to get kids when they hit the 40ties.
Last but not least many men simply do not want to have children anymore when they are 40, 50 or even 60. Since it is typical that many woman are much younger than their husbands it can be a real problem for men to start a (new) family in their mid 50ties. I wouldn't do that either. Besides there is a broad movement among European men to renounce traditional families because the divorce rate is at nearly 50%. It is not funny to be a cash cow. The changed moral conditions made it easy in western Europe to live with girlfriends without being married. Nobody cares about the sexual behavoiur of others as long as no one has to deal with material loss or damage.
I am among those who did it quite traditional. I am married to the nicest and prettiest girl you can think of and our three wild little boys are the proof that it was worth doing it.
The funny thing is, that we have many childless female friends with academic grades in their late 30ties, who are absolutely crazy about my kids. Sometimes the boys are really fed up with their "aunts" trying to kiss them all over. Although of course they like the expensive gifts, they hate being a substitute for some frustated friends of ours. We even had to cool down some relationships a bit. Do not get me wrong - not all women are that way, but some are for sure.
I think it is a fact that human nature can not be tricked. If a woman decides to live without her own kids (this can be very reasonable in some cases) she usually has to pay a bitter price.
That's terrific! Thank you for your perspective from across the Atlantic.
The self-absorption of the women interviewed in this piece is truly breathtaking. I'm glad that they have decided not to reproduce.
Your post is an interesting personal account. I understand Ms. Merkel is asking Germans to have more children. Another article on this site spoke of the coming demographic implosion in England and what steps the government might take to change things. I am not convinced government can. There is a spiritual aspect to childbearing/rearing that I think Europe has lost in some ways. One of the women quoted in the article seems to deride Americans who go to church. Sheesh. This lady, and others like her, are trying hard to convince themselves of something that, deep within, the are not comfortable with.
I think you are right--and you can't legislate that--at least not in the west. The remedies that I have read all have to do with money incentives and parental leave. That kind of government remedy won't work and is part of the reason they are having problems to begin with.
Hopefully she will be dead before the Muzzies come to lop off her head. Such a thing is really not very pleasant at all. Of course, if nobody has babies in the West, such a thing is quite inevitable.
Of all the comments posted to this story, you chose mine to respond to.
Go back and read my comment. You'll find that you and I are in complete agreement.
I suggest that you should get off your own horse and allow other people to express their opinions. If you don't like those opinions, simply leave the thread. Nobody is making you read it.
THAT is the freedom and liberty of FreeRepublic.
Meanwhile, the Muslim population continues to grow.
don't worry. the children self absorbed women dont have will be replaced babies from welfare queens and bums. And then some
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